Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Birthday to me...

Thanks to everyone who called, sang to me, sent cards and e-mailed Happy Birthday Wishes on Saturday.  I wouldn't normally make it a public event, but since I survived the big 40 last year and 41 was a little more anti-climatic I wrote a poem about it for my writing class today.


What you remember about turning 40 is really fine.
Joke cards and black flowers and Oprah saying,
"Don't worry forty is the new twenty."

I blew out all those candles and wrote a letter to myself.
It still hangs on the mirror in the bathroom.


Today you are forty. Time to get serious about things.

I solemnly swear I will:

Apply wrinkle cream every night before I go to sleep.
Spend more time playing with the children.
Read my digital camera manual.
Give up wearing my husband's oversized t-shirts to bed.
Wear nice underwear sometimes.
Develop inner calm.

I solemnly swear I will not:

Waste money on fancy coffee drinks at Starbucks
Spend hours surfing the internet.
Nag my husband daily.
Fantasize about life in San Francisco before the children were born.
Watch reality TV.
Throw recycling cans or bottles into the regular trash...

What? What's that? What's that you say?

I can throw my list away?

I'm turning 41 on Saturday.


**It's so nice not to have the pressure this year of beginning a new decade :)!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Grandma's Big Girl...

My Brown-Eyed Gal has been missing her Grandma K. She said a couple of days ago, "Let's go to Grandma's house right now!"

Unfortunately it is an eight hour drive, but fortunately we visit quite a few times during the year and Grandma visits us frequently too.

One of my daughter's favorite activities is cooking with Grandma K. 

Brown-eyed Gal seems to resemble Grandma K more than any of the other kids. 

My husband says, "It's the chipmunk cheeks." He said it, not me.  

Both Grandma K and Brown-eyed Gal share similar birthdays. In fact, I went into labor on Grandma K's birthday, but my girl was born a day later.

Thanks Grandma K for all you do and we'll be seeing you soon! 

More Silly Monkey stories here. 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bendaroos and Retractable Awnings...

Just a few of the items my five year old son thinks we need to purchase after viewing these products on  TV infomercials.

He is really fascinated by bendaroo's.

"Guess what mom? You can turn an ordinary bottle into a fashion model."

Living in the desert heat we have two built in covered porches in the backyard. Regardless of this, my son is convinced we need a retractable awning- the big seller for him:

"Mom, it opens and closes in under 60 seconds"

I don't really want my kids watching a lot of TV, but it is fascinating how influential and convincing these commercials can be even to the smallest viewer, who technically isn't really even a consumer yet. These ads are featured on kids cartoon programming... funny to hear him parrot the information, but also a little scary. 

Seriously, there is something really wrong about being mesmerized late at night by an ad to buy something that you don't really need that will soon be discounted at a drugstore (as seen on TV) and later be readily available at garage sales far and wide.

I guess the real question is how to responsibly introduce children to concepts of money and responsible spending in this crazy economic time. I hope to be a good role model and use these moments as learning opportunities to discuss money and what it means to spend responsibly for our family.

I remember buying an Ab Roller in the nineties which promised fabulous results and a firm stomach. I used it a few times and when it was taking up too much space later gave it to Goodwill.

Have you ever bought something from an infomercial? Did you use it? Did it live up to your expectations? Leave me a comment and let me know!  

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Funny Pumpkin Heads...

Lil' Expert's 2nd grade class had a field trip to Apple Annie's Pumpkin Patch and Dad was able to take the day off to go with him.

They learned about pumpkins, had a fun hayride and a picnic lunch.

They tried to find the biggest pumpkin in the patch.

After lunch they explored a giant corn maze.

Arizona's Largest Corn Maze

  • Cut into 18 acres of corn.
  • Over 6 miles of pathways.
  • 3 levels of difficulty

**I am so thankful to have a husband who participates in our kid's special events.  Thank you Big Expert. I really appreciate your commitment to our family!! 

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Llama Llama Mad at Mama...


Tuesday Tales- Llama Llama Mad at Mama

AVT Coach has asked me today to do a guest post on her Tuesday Tales, a weekly review of children’s books and I am thrilled to do so. I really enjoy reading her blog and I especially love her positive focus on how to live creatively and abundantly.

I am a family counselor and a mother of four little ones eight and under, so I understand the importance of children’s literature. My own kids are at a variety of ages and stages and they all love reading and books. Stories can also play a significant role in the emotional development of children and families as we all deal with the normal stressors and frustrations of daily life.

Autumn is a time of nature’s beauty and outside fun, but the turn of the season also signals the holiday season approaching. School is back in full swing and there are shopping trips to be taken for back to school clothes and supplies. The upcoming celebrations are not complete without shopping for holiday meals and holiday gift giving. These shopping trips can be trying for both parents and children.

The book I have chosen is Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney.

It is a great read for the upcoming holiday months and provides some much needed humor and relief to get through the holiday shopping season.

This fun and whimsical book tells the story of a mother Llama who takes her young son shopping. The little llama becomes overwhelmed and bored as the shopping trip continues and he has a major temper tantrum. The mother stays calm and emotionally responds to the needs of her little llama by encouraging him to work with her as a team. They clean up the mess he has made and finish the shopping trip. The story ends with mother and son sharing an ice cream treat together.

The tale is told in short, witty rhymes that are fun to read aloud and say together. Each page is illustrated by the author herself and has colorful and emotionally expressive drawings of the shopping trip. The faces of the characters are slightly exaggerated which makes it easy for kids to identify the emotions happening in the story. 

For my complete post please visit me over at AVT COACH

My favorite part of Llama Llama Mad at Mama is hearing my kids peals of laughter at the words and pictures of this zany shopping trip. I hope you will enjoy it as well.

Happy Reading,

Storytellin’ Mama

Monday, October 20, 2008

How to Enjoy a Great Steak...

My One Month hosted by My Cup 2 Yours

My friend Genny at My Cup 2 Yours has been doing a thirty day challenge asking the question, "How would you live your life if you only had one month to live?" 

In fact, she held a contest giving away a couple of copies of the bestselling book One Month to Live by Kerry and Chris Shook. I was one of the lucky winners of the book and I am really looking forward to reading it.

I have been thinking about this question a lot. 

If I only had one month to live my life, the changes I would make would probably be similar to most other people. Spend more quality time with my family, children, and my husband. Try to be more present. Worry less about the details of things such as financial stressors, my son's penmanship, whether the laundry is completely up to date. 

Several years ago, I used to lead a group with seniors at The Einstein Center (a residential home for the elderly) in Sacramento, CA. It was a reminiscence group. It was one of the most popular groups at the center. We always had about twenty to thirty seniors attend the group and we were even interviewed by the local newspaper and the seniors shared some of their stories and memories.  

In this group, the seniors would share detailed memories about their lives and we would laugh together and sometimes cry. Some of the stories were simple like a favorite family recipe or tradition. Some of the stories were more intense stories of survival and courage.

I remember a story of one of the men in the group who had been a young Jewish boy in Austria during the time of the Holocaust. His family was safe, but they had very little food. One snowy afternoon the mother of the family was looking out the window and saw the family cat with something in it's mouth. She ran outside and the cat was holding a big, fresh and juicy steak. It had been a long time since they had any meat, so they cooked it up and had a feast for supper. He remembers it as a very precious family meal and one of the best steaks he ever tasted.

The war was nearing an end and at some point they were out in the streets celebrating with other villagers. A neighbor was telling the story of how she had bought a steak on the black market and put it in the windowsill to air out. It had completely disappeared from the window. It was a great mystery.

I remember clearly this senior was quite advanced in age, yet he remembered this story from his boyhood vividly and in great detail. In the group, there was no sharing of the minor irritations or daily problems of life though I'm sure they were there. The stories shared were those that were meaningful and had made an impact in some way on the life of the person telling the story.

More than anything else I want to focus on connecting and engaging with others. I want to be grateful and thankful for the things in my life. I want to give up being lost in the past by what could have been, or caught in the future by what might be possible. I want to live in the present and in the now with a continual "one month to live" attitude. I want to enjoy the great "steaks" of my life and be open to the many ways of how I might receive them.      

In One Month to Live each chapter opens with quotes from famous authors. Here are a few that stood out to me:

I don't want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.   Diane Ackerman  

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. it can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Melody Beattie  

Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.  Alan Sachs 

Friday, October 17, 2008

Apples and October Bliss...

"To appreciate the wild and sharp flavors of these October fruits, it is necessary that you be breathing the sharp October or November air. What is sour in the house a bracing walk makes sweet. Some of these apples might be labeled, “To be eaten in the wind.” It takes a savage or wild taste to appreciate a wild fruit. . . The era of the Wild Apple will soon be past. It is a fruit which will probably become extinct in New England. I fear that he who walks over these fields a century hence will not know the pleasure of knocking off wild apples. Ah, poor soul, there are many pleasures which you will not know! . . . the end of it all will be that we shall be compelled to look for our apples in a barrel."
- Henry David Thoreau

"There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October."
- Nathaniel Hawthorne

"She had only to stand in the orchard, to put her hand on a little crab tree and look up at the apples,
to make you feel the goodness of planting and tending and harvesting at last."
- Willa Cather

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by
Cecily and MamaGeek

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My 100th Post...

I can't believe I've reached 100 blog posts. I understand that it is traditional to write 100 Things about Myself for the 100th post, but since books are my thing I decided to write a list of 100 books that have influenced me over the years. This is in no way a comprehensive list. In fact, it is a list of the books that popped into my head as I was writing this post. It might be a different post if I had written it tomorrow.

The books listed include classics, modern, contemporary, poetry, memoir, children's literature, mystery and chick Lit. Anything that has made an impact on me for one random reason or another. I have read all the books that I have included on the list. There is no particular order, or time chronology because I am too lazy to organize it in this way.

Storytellin' Mama's Top 100 Books, Part 1:

1. The Great Gatsby 2. Tender is the Night (I love the Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night may be my all time favorite.) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

3.The Accidental tourist (This book always makes me laugh and the movie was pretty funny too.) by Anne Tyler

4. The Cairo Trilogy: Palace Walk, 5. Palace of Desire, 6. Sugar Street (A huge undertaking, but definitely worth it for anyone that loves a good family saga.) by Naguib Mafouz

7. To Kill a Mockingbird (Classic criminal law.) by Harper Lee

8. A Wrinkle in Time (My favorite children's book and the reason I named my daughter Madeline.) by Madeleine L'Engle

9. The Transcendent Child (Evidence that there is always hope for the future.) by Lillian B. Rubin

10. The Age of Innocence 11. Ethan Frome 12. The House of Mirth (My obsession when I was in high school.) by Edith Wharton

13. The Sheltering Sky (Another world altogether and one of the best movie soundtracks ever.) by Paul Bowles

14. Bastard Out of Carolina (I cried my way through this one.) by Dorothy Allison

15. Harry Potter Series (What can I say that hasn't been said already... great boy role model, amazing rags to riches story and a female author who is still breaking records.) by J.K. Rowling

16. The Moviegoer (For anyone who as ever had it all, but still felt alienated.) by Walker Percy

17. Persuasion 18. Pride and Prejudice (Novels that stand the test of time, predating chick literature all the way back to the 1800's.) by Jane Austen

19. Bridget Jone's Diary (A hysterical and loose retelling of Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice.) by Helen Fielding

20. Failure (Won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry this year.) by Philip Schultz

21. The Bean Trees 22. Pigs in Heaven 23. Animal Dreams (I live in Tucson after all, where all these novels were written and take place.) by Barbara Kingsolver

24. Bird by Bird (A must have for any aspiring writer.) by Annie Lammot

25. Anne of Greene Gables Series (The books I reread the most as a child.) by L.M. Montgomery

26. The heart is a Lonely Hunter 27. The Member of the Wedding (Some of the most lyrical writing I've ever read.) by Carson McCuller

28. The Lovely Bones 29. Lucky (Excellent use of the first person narrator in Lovely Bones and Lucky is an interesting memoir of an often taboo topic.) by Alice Sebold

29. Reviving Ophelia (I love this book and I encourage any mother who has a daughter to read it.) by Mary Pipher 

30. Anna Karenina (Really you can't go wrong with Tolstoy.) by Leo Tolstoy

31. The Kite Runner 32. A Thousand Splendid Suns (Both these books are terrific and give such a glimpse of the experience of racial tension and the complexity of relationships.  I have reread the opening of the Kite Runner so many times and I think it is a masterful and flawless opening to a book.) Khaled Hosseini

33. The Chosen (A book about friendship that transcends religion, isolation, and pain. I loved this book as a teenager.) Chaim Potok

34. One Hundred years of Solitude 35. Love in a Time of Cholera (Marquez is a master at magic realism- using magic to explain real events.) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

36. The Joy Luck Club (Therapeutic in understanding mother-daughter relationships.) by Amy Tan

37. Angle of Repose 38. Crossing to Safety (These novels highlight one of the great voices of the American West.) by Wallace Stegner

39. Little Women (As a kid I was mesmerized by all of Alcott's books, but this is a favorite.) by Louisa May Alcott

40. The Glass Castle (A recent favorite. A memoir of childhood survival and endurance.)

41. The Stephanie Plum Series (Pure fun and fluff.) by Janet Evanovich

42. The Catcher in the Rye (A college must, Salinger writes really good short stories too.) by J.D. Salinger

43. The Year of Magical Thinking (Moving memoir about losing a spouse and understanding grief.) by Joan Didion

44. A Walk in the Woods (Laugh out loud funny and really educational about the Appalachian Trail) by Bill Bryson

45. Interpreter of Maladies 46. The Namesake (Both books have characters that are so engaging and engrossing.) by Jhumpra Lahiri

47. Three Junes (A moving story of family told by three members with differing perspectives.)
by Julia Glass

48. The Devil Wears Prada (A fun career girl story.) by Lauren Weisberger

49. In her Shoes (Sisterhood at its zaniest and most real.) by Jennifer Weiner

50. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency (An original detective story riveting in a subtle way.) by Alexander McCall Smith

*This post has gotten really long, so I've decided to do books 51-100 for a continuing post next week.

I'm always looking for new good books to read. Leave a comment if there is a book you love that you think I might enjoy.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week!    

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Don't Hang the Skeleton...

Halloween is a favorite holiday around here. 

My kids have been in halloween mode full swing.   

This last week, we have made halloween cookies, read halloween books, watched Goosebumps every night and worked on halloween word searches and mazes.  

Halloween Hangman created by The Dimension's Edge, Inc.

Thanks to the Wine Commonsewer my kids have also enjoyed playing Halloween Hangman. They thought it was quite hilarious. It provided an hour of quiet and entertainment which was great for Mom.  

I have memories of playing hangman back in grade school and it was also a favorite game to play with my clients when I was doing play therapy back in California. 

Hope you enjoy. 

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Rose for the Teacher...

The Special Roses!

Hanging Out with the Teach!

Watch Me Slide!

Say Cheese!

Just Me and My Teacher!

In our school district, the teachers visit each student at home one time during the school year.

We are on a year round schedule and my kid's have been out of school for three weeks for Fall Break. My kindergartner's teacher came to visit one afternoon last week during the break. 

Storytellin' Boy showed her all of his treasures on his dresser, they shared a snack of chocolate cake, they played Legos together, and she toured the backyard and watched him and his brothers and sisters play on the swings and slide.

The visit was a great success. All of my kids enjoyed meeting her. She brought a bag full of books and my son picked one about a baby penguin for his very own.

As she was about to leave, my son ran and took a long pink rose out of a vase on the table and gave it to her.  

"This is for you to remember our special visit," he told her.   


PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Comparing Apples...

The boys apple picking at Apple Annie's Orchard.  

More pictures to come.  

Wordless Wednesday here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

It's Good to Laugh a Little during all this Political Tension and Financial Crisis...

I have been amazed at the number of people watching YouTube, Googling, and sending around e-mails of Tina Fey impersonating Sarah Palin. Along with all the other political satire going around from Saturday Night Live and other sources.  

I understand because it gets tiring listening to the ads, debates, and CNN night after night and trying to make conscientious decisions. Sometimes I wonder if my opinion matters at all. I enjoy getting a little comic relief from all the serious issues and the stress of trying to understand what is happening in our country and what it means for our future.  

This past week, I have enjoyed reading Christopher Buckley's novel Boomsday. The book is a political satire that has an uncanny ability to point out the absurdity of some of the political issues of our day.      

Boomsday is an especially fun read for bloggers. The zany heroine is a late night blogger who changes the world through her blog entries that are eagerly followed by her doting audience.  

I doubt my "Mommy Blog" with photos of my children will ever have that kind of impact, but the idea of a female blogger changing the world through her blog is certainly fun and appealing.  

Here is a little snippet about the book from Publisher's Weekly:

 Reviewed by Jessica Cutler: It's the end of the world as we know it, especially if bloggers are setting the national agenda. In his latest novel, Buckley imagines a not-so-distant future when America teeters on the brink of economic disaster as the baby boomers start retiring. Buckley takes on such pressing (however boring) topics as Social Security reform and fiscal solvency, as does his protagonist. And get this: she's a blogger. Buckley's heroine is "a morally superior twenty-nine-year-old PR chick" who blogs at night about the impending Boomsday budget crisis. Of course, "she was young, she was pretty, she was blonde, she had something to say." She has a large, doting audience that eagerly awaits her every blog entry. And her name? Cassandra. And the name of her blog? Also Cassandra. Of course, Buckley doesn't let his allusion get by us:"She was a goddess of something," another character struggles to remember, which gives his heroine the opportunity to educate us about the significance of her namesake."Daughter of the king of Troy. She warned that the city would fall to the Greeks," she explains. "Cassandra is sort of a metaphor for catastrophe prediction. This is me. It's what I do." So Cassandra, doing what she does, starts by calling for "an economic Bastille Day" and her minions take to destroying golf courses in protest. Cassandra grabs headlines and magazine covers, and the president starts wringing his hands over what she might blog about next..."

The book is definitely irreverent and even offensive at times, but if you can take it tongue in cheek like the Tina Fey depictions of Sarah Palin then it is a fun romp through the political landscape of our time. 

Here is a link to the New York times Book Review of Boomsday. 

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Reading our stories 
Bath time finished smelling sweet
in pink pajamas.

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Haiku Friday here!